Spoilers ahead for July 5's Dark Crisis #2.
After mourning the loss of the Justice League, DC’s crossover event Dark Crisis kicked things off with a bang at the end of its inaugural issue, with Deathstroke leading the Secret Society of Super-Villains in an attack on Titans Tower. Dark Crisis #2 picks up right from this fiery cliffhanger, with Nightwing taking on Deathstroke personally in a knockdown, drag-out brawl over the fate of his friends. Helmed by writer Joshua Williamson and artist Sampere, the main crossover series’ two principal creators are here for a new postgame interview of Dark Crisis #2’s most shocking moments.
Written by Williamson, illustrated by Sampere, colored by Alejandro Sanchez, and lettered by Tom Napolitano, Dark Crisis has raised the stakes considerably in its sophomore issue. While the new Superman Jon Kent arrives on the scene to turn the tide of battle, he quickly has troubles of his own when the Secret Society receives reinforcements in the form of Cyborg-Superman, leading to their own brutal fracas. However, not all hope is lost as the Green Lantern Corps regroups on the other side of the cosmos, ready to take the fight back to Pariah and his powerful Dark Army.
In an exclusive, spoiler-filled interview with the Popverse, Williamson and Sampere provide a blow-for-blow examination of Dark Crisis #2’s fiery showdown, explain the thematic undertones of the issue’s surprising returns, and tease what readers can expect as a classic team joins the fight in August’s Dark Crisis #3.
Popverse: You mentioned this the last time we spoke and you’re right: This is a top-to-bottom fight issue. Why did you want the sophomore issue to be such an action-heavy installment?
Joshua Williamson: Originally, this was going to be issue #3 when I was outlining this out. As I started working and getting into issue #2, I thought that I really needed to do the Titans story here and I needed to let it breathe. Let’s do a whole issue of just this one beat and really show how the Titans are morally defeated. They’re blindsided and unprepared, which is very unlike them. Part of this issue was really about the death of the Justice League and showing how it impacted everybody, including the Titans, and made them vulnerable here.
I really wanted to show how that moral loss impacts everyone because they’re already impacted by the Justice League dying and things happening with that. Here, it’s like a one-two punch, with the Justice League and then the Titans’ having this moral defeat; I knew this was the place to do it. The first issue was pretty packed and so is issue #3, I knew a lot of the issues in this book were. I figured, let’s let this one be a fight issue and let it breathe a little bit more.
Daniel, what is the secret sauce in developing the perfect comic book action sequence?
Daniel Sampere: The first thing I did was trying to understand the feelings behind these fights. I realized that even if Nightwing and Deathstroke are amazing fighters and Nightwing can do super fancy leaps in the air, the way to go for this was a street fight, something dirty and not something fancy. I wanted the hits to hit hard, the anger there, not like a fancy fight in a movie. I was just trying to show rage and desperation, Nightwing’s angry but he’s also fighting for the lives of the rest of the group. On the main double-page spread, the panels have no specific order because I was trying to make it feel just punches and pain, nothing fancy.
The other fight was something similar, the situation was desperate. Josh wrote on the page that this needs to feel brutal, it’s a tough moment for Jon. I thought the rain would be nice to add a little bit of drama and I tried to do it as brutally as I could.
Williamson: We really wanted the fights to feel urgent and it felt like there was a lot of chaos happening, that was something we talked a lot about. After I did the first draft and talked with editorial, I really wanted to make it feel like the issue was just chaos happening. There’s chaos throughout the issue but you have two spotlight big fights. The role that Jon and Nightwing have in the book, they needed to have these two fights particularly.
Nightwing has been fighting Deathstroke since 1980 but is this the first time Jon has fought Cyborg-Superman? And what made this the right match-up for him?
Williamson: I think so, I don’t remember Jon facing him in Super-Sons or anything like that. There’s many reasons I can give you but the main one is that I think Cyborg-Superman is cool. [laughs] He has a distinct look that’s so fascinating, Dan Jurgens nailed that design 30 years ago. The other reason I picked Cyborg-Superman is because he looks like his father. The idea of Jon having to go up against somebody who looks like his dad the way Cyborg-Superman does, and also with Cyborg-Superman’s connections to the past in the Death of Superman with the fact that Cyborg-Superman posed as his father and tried to take advantage of his father’s death, there’s a thematic energy to that.
I thought it made sense for him to be the one to show up and I already used him in Deathstroke Inc. #2 so it made sense, considering the stuff that happened there for him to be the person that Deathstroke called upon. I made a list this last year of all the villains we were using and all the stuff that we had planned, filling out Deathstroke’s army and who I saw as his lieutenants and heavy-hitters. We’re not done with heavy-hitters but those are the ones that I felt made the most sense.
Cyborg-Superman, on top of looking cool and being an interesting character, he has thematic ties to the story that we’re telling. Having him be the one that really tests Jon in this moment and go against him, it was really fun and made a lot of sense. Daniel draws one of the dopest drawings of Cyborg-Superman ever, when he lands. In the script I just had him fly in and you had him do the ground-pound and be in your face. I think it’s one of the coolest drawings of Cyborg-Superman that I’ve ever seen that Daniel did, he nailed it.
Sampere: Taking into account what happened on the previous page, we saw some hints of Superman to cause confusion if Superman is coming back. You just see the hair, the 'S,' and then you show it’s not Superman but Cyborg-Superman. I also used one of Superman’s most iconic poses, with the fist on the ground, I wanted to play around with that, make it like the entrance of Superman but it’s not him, it’s trouble.
Williamson: It’s funny because we revealed it was Cyborg-Superman a long time ago but, when you read the page before, with the cape, hair, and fwoosh, I wanted people who didn’t know thinking it was Clark coming in to save his son – but no, an even bigger problem just showed up and they’re going to have a really brutal fight. My favorite part of that fight is when he laser-blasts Jon right in the face, I really wanted that level of brutality from the villains.
But Deathstroke says this whole thing was a warning, it was about proving a point, not so much killing anybody there or winning the victory that day. Deathstroke knew that the thing he was doing was a moral victory and more about breaking the soul of the Titans and these new characters, that’s what he was really doing that day, with the meanness to it. I also didn’t want to make it too gross, like the [death of] the Justice League, I don’t want it to be a gross kind of brutal but with intense and urgent fights, that’s what we were going for.
During this issue, we see more explicitly that Deathstroke is under the influence of the Great Darkness and serving Pariah. What made sense to have him be in this role for Dark Crisis?
Williamson: I always feel like he’s the enemy of legacy, the fact that he’s the Titans’ greatest enemy. I think if we’re telling a story about the Titans, it made sense to use Deathstroke. About a year ago, when I was working on Dark Crisis stuff and started mapping out certain things, I was thinking about who was going to be what and who is the cast, it made sense for me to have Deathstroke play this major role. Then it became how to get him in this position and, with him being the enemy of legacy and what the Great Darkness and Pariah want, I think those things fed into what Deathstroke wants and is feeling.
It’s been seeded since Deathstroke Inc. #2 when he frees the Weird and the Weird gives off this energy burst and, in the moment the energy burst explodes, they see all these things that are happening at DC at that time. If you look, you can see that Deathstroke is actually inside of the Great Darkness when this happens because we connected it to Infinite Frontier #6.
In Infinite Frontier #6, there’s a scene where Darkseid is trying to figure out how to control the Great Darkness and shows it. When we showed that scene again in Deathstroke Inc. #2, you could see Deathstroke was inside of the Great Darkness. We had already started him on this path of being a villain but, from that point forward, he was already under the influence of the Great Darkness from that moment on. I was just trying to tie everything together and show he was being manipulated by Pariah as far back as then.
Daniel, your favorite character is Green Lantern and we haven’t seen Kyle Rayner in a long time. How was it bringing in the Green Lanterns with this issue’s ending?
Sampere: I knew it was coming and when I read the script, I was like 'Yes!' [laughs] I think it was the first page I drew for the issue because I couldn’t wait to jump on that final splash. It was a chance to do the Green Lantern page I always wanted to do and I needed to do it right. I felt the pressure to do the page perfectly because it’s important for the story and for me. It was amazing and I'm happy with how it looked on the final page. I did the cover and then I just jumped to that page, I couldn’t wait. [laughs]
Williamson: I’m a big Green Lantern fan and Kyle Rayner is one of my favorite Green Lanterns and, in a lot of ways, he also represents legacy. Kyle is a character who created a new point of view on the Green Lanterns, you could follow his journey when he first appeared and be greeted into the big mythology that is Green Lantern through him. After The Omega Men, Kyle was in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps but, once that was over, Kyle had been put to the side a bit. In the Green Lantern book this last year, he had been stranded out in space.
Once we knew he was stranded out in space and they weren’t going to resolve that, I wanted to reflect what everyone was doing and this really played into the stuff we were planning. It makes total sense and, that Kyle is this character being brought back in, is also signaling to readers to come with us, we’re going on an adventure together. Kyle represents those readers and having Hal talk to Kyle on the last page, he’s also basically saying to the reader 'Are you ready to come with us on the rest of this journey?'
I knew this issue was going to be a bit on the darker side because of the fight and the way that the fight was handled. I knew I needed to end on an upbeat moment and having the Green Lantern Corps back and all those characters together, with Hal bringing Kyle back in, I knew ending there would be a bright moment for the book. Also, getting to see Daniel draw Green Lanterns is always really cool. [laughs]
Sampere: When I’m drawing pages, I know the main beats and the emotions to draw them properly but everything felt different when I read the PDF with the final dialogue and lettering, everything made sense when I could see the whole picture. When I read those last couple of pages, I got chills and that has never happened to me before, it was amazing. I hope people will enjoy it the same way!
Williamson: Issue #3 has a lot of Green Lantern stuff and there’s a lot of Green Lantern stuff across the next few issues. There’s one page in issue #3 where there’s a ton of Green Lanterns that Daniel did that’s really awesome.
Josh, you’ve revealed a teaser image for Dark Crisis #3, revealing the return of the Justice Society of America. What can you tease about their role in the story?
Williamson: We had kind of been keeping a secret that the JSA was going to return in Dark Crisis and then we decided that it is a generational story and how do you tell a story about generations and not involve the JSA. We wanted to get that out there and they play a big role in issue #4 and 5 and then throughout the rest of it, especially Alan Scott. Alan Scott was a major part of Infinite Frontier and then we sort of put him to the side since Infinite Frontier.
If we’re telling this story, we’ve got to bring him back in and we have Jay [Garrick] in the Flash books as well. We knew that we needed to bring them and have them play the role of the elder statesmen, who also have a lot of experience with this stuff, and join with Jon and Nightwing and get some generational fun in there. How often do you get to see the Titans and the JSA together? That was something that I really wanted to show.
While you wait for Dark Crisis #3, make sure you've read the best DC Comics stories to date so far.